Manchester City - Chelsea Preview: Blues look to catch Mancini's side as Benitez's men battle for second
With the title slipping from the current Premier League champions' grasp, the away side will look to capitalise and go within a point of the team above them with a win
By Sam Wells
Roberto Mancini is likely to make several changes from the rotated side that beat Leeds 4-0 in the FA Cup as regulars Joe Hart, Gael Clichy and Edin Dzeko are all likely to replace Costil Pantilimon, Aleksandar Kolarov and Carlos Tevez.
The home side could also receive a much-needed boost with captain Vincent Kompany currently striving to return from a calf injury in time for the game. If he passes a late fitness test he should return in place of Kolo Toure.
Gareth Barry (knock), however, remains doubtful while Micah Richards (knee) will definitely not feature.
Rafa Benitez is also set to make a variety of changes from the side that drew against Sparta Prague in the Europa League on Thursday, as Frank Lampard, Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole, all rested in that game, should return at the expense of John Obi Mikel, John Terry and Ryan Bertrand.
Eden Hazard, following his late tie-winning contribution in Thursday's game, should also come back into the starting line-up, with Oscar likely to be the man that drops to the bench.
Demba Ba should also, once again, come in for Fernando Torres to lead the line after missing out on the Europa League tie, having already featured in the competition for Newcastle.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Manchester City have managed to win just one of their past four Premier League encounters with Chelsea, losing two and drawing the other.
- Chelsea won 10 of their first 12 away league games against the current champions, but City have won the last three clashes at the Etihad Stadium.
- Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko has scored six goals in his last seven Premier League appearances. He is 11/2 to score the first goal with bet365.
- The sides are well-matched, with City boasting this season's second-best home record, while the visitors have the second-best away form in the league, with Manchester United leading both tables.
- Meanwhile, Chelsea's Frank Lampard (pictured) will be looking to score in his fifth consecutive league game for only the third time in his career (having previously done so in 2005 and 2010).
- The Blues have been awarded eight penalties this season, the most in the Premier League, though their opposition today has, aside from rivals Manchester United, enjoyed the most spot-kicks in the league since the start of last season (14).
- Fernando Torres will be looking to recover from a torrid recent spell of form if he features here, having scored just one in his last 13 games; against Sparta Prague on Thursday, he had more shots than anyone else on the pitch and not only did he fail to score, but only one of those was on target.
- The Blues are 13th in the table when it comes to losing the lead in matches this season, having dropped 14 points from winning positions.
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Top 3 Predictions
Manchester City 1-2 Chelsea FC
- 23.8 %
Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea FC
- 10.39 %
Manchester City 1-3 Chelsea FC
- 10.32 %
|Premier League (EPL)||27 Oct 2013||Chelsea FC 2 - Manchester City 1|
|Club Friendlies (FRC)||25 May 2013||Manchester City 5 - Chelsea FC 3|
|Club Friendlies (FRC)||24 May 2013||Chelsea FC 3 - Manchester City 4|
|FA Cup (FA)||14 Apr 2013||Chelsea FC 1 - Manchester City 2|
|Premier League (EPL)||24 Feb 2013||Manchester City 2 - Chelsea FC 0|
|7 Dec 2013||Southampton 1 - Manchester City 1||EPL|
|4 Dec 2013||West Bromwich Albion 2 - Manchester City 3||EPL|
|1 Dec 2013||Manchester City 3 - Swansea City 0||EPL|
|27 Nov 2013||Manchester City 4 - FC Viktoria Plzeň 2||UCL|
|24 Nov 2013||Manchester City 6 - Tottenham 0||EPL|
|12||John Obi Mikel||Midfielder|
The England No.1 has been the subject of heavy criticism of late as he has looked increasingly error-prone and this will be his first appearance since his calamitous performance in their ignominious defeat against Southampton. He will be looking to prove the doubters wrong in this game as City look to overturn their poor league form against a Chelsea side that could yet nip them to second place.
With his attacking peers putting in match-winning performances in recent weeks (Juan Mata against Brentford and Oscar in the first leg against Sparta Prague), it was Hazard's turn to steal the spotlight on Thursday as, after being brought on as a substitute, he produced a stunning strike to ensure that Chelsea scraped through in a close-fought encounter. The Blues could do with some more of the diminutive Belgian's magic here if they are to overcome a team with a point to prove.
The managers of both of these sides are coming under considerable pressure from fans and pundits alike in recent times; Mancini's men have failed to win their last three games in the Premier League while Benitez is still struggling to endear himself to the Chelsea support in the midst of some disappointing performances. The former Liverpool man would surely go some way to winning over the fans if they could catch City in second and, if they win here, they'd be one point short of that goal. However, the hosts have a point to prove and, for that reason, there should be little to separate the teams.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed